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An Unreliable Datagram Extension to QUIC

The information below is for an old version of the document.
Document Type
This is an older version of an Internet-Draft that was ultimately published as RFC 9221.
Authors Tommy Pauly , Eric Kinnear , David Schinazi
Last updated 2020-03-09 (Latest revision 2020-02-26)
Replaces draft-pauly-quic-datagram
RFC stream Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
Additional resources Mailing list discussion
Stream WG state WG Document
Associated WG milestone
Jun 2021
Datagram Extension to IESG
Document shepherd (None)
IESG IESG state Became RFC 9221 (Proposed Standard)
Consensus boilerplate Unknown
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Network Working Group                                           T. Pauly
Internet-Draft                                                E. Kinnear
Intended status: Standards Track                              Apple Inc.
Expires: 29 August 2020                                      D. Schinazi
                                                              Google LLC
                                                        26 February 2020

                An Unreliable Datagram Extension to QUIC


   This document defines an extension to the QUIC transport protocol to
   add support for sending and receiving unreliable datagrams over a
   QUIC connection.

   Discussion of this work is encouraged to happen on the QUIC IETF
   mailing list ( or on the GitHub
   repository which contains the draft:
   datagram (

Status of This Memo

   This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the
   provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
   Task Force (IETF).  Note that other groups may also distribute
   working documents as Internet-Drafts.  The list of current Internet-
   Drafts is at

   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
   and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
   time.  It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference
   material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

   This Internet-Draft will expire on 29 August 2020.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2020 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents (
   license-info) in effect on the date of publication of this document.
   Please review these documents carefully, as they describe your rights

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   and restrictions with respect to this document.  Code Components
   extracted from this document must include Simplified BSD License text
   as described in Section 4.e of the Trust Legal Provisions and are
   provided without warranty as described in the Simplified BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
     1.1.  Specification of Requirements . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   2.  Motivation  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   3.  Transport Parameter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
   4.  Datagram Frame Type . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   5.  Behavior and Usage  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     5.1.  Acknowledgement Handling  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     5.2.  Flow Control  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     5.3.  Congestion Control  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
   6.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
   7.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
   8.  Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
   9.  References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
     9.1.  Normative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
     9.2.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
   Authors' Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9

1.  Introduction

   The QUIC Transport Protocol [I-D.ietf-quic-transport] provides a
   secure, multiplexed connection for transmitting reliable streams of
   application data.  Reliability within QUIC is performed on a per-
   stream basis, so some frame types are not eligible for

   Some applications, particularly those that need to transmit real-time
   data, prefer to transmit data unreliably.  These applications can
   build directly upon UDP [RFC0768] as a transport, and can add
   security with DTLS [RFC6347].  Extending QUIC to support transmitting
   unreliable application data would provide another option for secure
   datagrams, with the added benefit of sharing a cryptographic and
   authentication context used for reliable streams.

   This document defines two new DATAGRAM QUIC frame types, which carry
   application data without requiring retransmissions.

   Discussion of this work is encouraged to happen on the QUIC IETF
   mailing list ( or on the GitHub
   repository which contains the draft:
   datagram (

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1.1.  Specification of Requirements

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in BCP
   14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all
   capitals, as shown here.

2.  Motivation

   Transmitting unreliable data over QUIC provides benefits over
   existing solutions:

   *  Applications that open both a reliable TLS stream and an
      unreliable DTLS flow to the same peer can benefit by sharing a
      single handshake and authentication context between a reliable
      QUIC stream and flow of unreliable QUIC datagrams.  This can
      reduce the latency required for handshakes.

   *  QUIC uses a more nuanced loss recovery mechanism than the DTLS
      handshake, which has a basic packet loss retransmission timer.
      This may allow loss recovery to occur more quickly for QUIC data.

   *  QUIC datagrams, while unreliable, can support acknowledgements,
      allowing applications to be aware of whether a datagram was
      successfully received.

   *  QUIC datagrams are subject to QUIC congestion control, allowing
      applications to avoid implementing their own.

   These reductions in connection latency, and application insight into
   the delivery of datagrams, can be useful for optimizing audio/video
   streaming applications, gaming applications, and other real-time
   network applications.

   Unreliable QUIC datagrams can also be used to implement an IP packet
   tunnel over QUIC, such as for a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
   Internet-layer tunneling protocols generally require a reliable and
   authenticated handshake, followed by unreliable secure transmission
   of IP packets.  This can, for example, require a TLS connection for
   the control data, and DTLS for tunneling IP packets.  A single QUIC
   connection could support both parts with the use of unreliable

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3.  Transport Parameter

   Support for receiving the DATAGRAM frame types is advertised by means
   of a QUIC Transport Parameter (name=max_datagram_frame_size,
   value=0x0020).  The max_datagram_frame_size transport parameter is an
   integer value (represented as a variable-length integer) that
   represents the maximum size of a DATAGRAM frame (including the frame
   type, length, and payload) the endpoint is willing to receive, in
   bytes.  An endpoint that includes this parameter supports the
   DATAGRAM frame types and is willing to receive such frames on this
   connection.  Endpoints MUST NOT send DATAGRAM frames until they have
   sent and received the max_datagram_frame_size transport parameter.
   Endpoints MUST NOT send DATAGRAM frames of size strictly larger than
   the value of max_datagram_frame_size the endpoint has received from
   its peer.  An endpoint that receives a DATAGRAM frame when it has not
   sent the max_datagram_frame_size transport parameter MUST terminate
   the connection with error PROTOCOL_VIOLATION.  An endpoint that
   receives a DATAGRAM frame that is strictly larger than the value it
   sent in its max_datagram_frame_size transport parameter MUST
   terminate the connection with error PROTOCOL_VIOLATION.  Endpoints
   that wish to use DATAGRAM frames need to ensure they send a
   max_datagram_frame_size value sufficient to allow their peer to use
   them.  It is RECOMMENDED to send the value 65536 in the
   max_datagram_frame_size transport parameter as that indicates to the
   peer that this endpoint will accept any DATAGRAM frame that fits
   inside a QUIC packet.

   When clients use 0-RTT, they MAY store the value of the server's
   max_datagram_frame_size transport parameter.  Doing so allows the
   client to send DATAGRAM frames in 0-RTT packets.  When servers decide
   to accept 0-RTT data, they MUST send a max_datagram_frame_size
   transport parameter greater or equal to the value they sent to the
   client in the connection where they sent them the NewSessionTicket
   message.  If a client stores the value of the max_datagram_frame_size
   transport parameter with their 0-RTT state, they MUST validate that
   the new value of the max_datagram_frame_size transport parameter sent
   by the server in the handshake is greater or equal to the stored
   value; if not, the client MUST terminate the connection with error

   Application protocols that use datagrams MUST define how they react
   to the max_datagram_frame_size transport parameter being missing.  If
   datagram support is integral to the application, the application
   protocol can fail the handshake if the max_datagram_frame_size
   transport parameter is not present.

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4.  Datagram Frame Type

   DATAGRAM frames are used to transmit application data in an
   unreliable manner.  The DATAGRAM frame type takes the form 0b0011000X
   (or the values 0x30 and 0x31).  The least significant bit of the
   DATAGRAM frame type is the LEN bit (0x01).  It indicates that there
   is a Length field present.  If this bit is set to 0, the Length field
   is absent and the Datagram Data field extends to the end of the
   packet.  If this bit is set to 1, the Length field is present.

   The DATAGRAM frame is structured as follows:

    0                   1                   2                   3
    0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1
   |                        [Length (i)]                         ...
   |                      Datagram Data (*)                      ...

                      Figure 1: DATAGRAM Frame Format

   DATAGRAM frames contain the following fields:

   Length:  A variable-length integer specifying the length of the
      datagram in bytes.  This field is present only when the LEN bit is
      set.  If the LEN bit is not set, the datagram data extends to the
      end of the QUIC packet.  Note that empty (i.e., zero-length)
      datagrams are allowed.

   Datagram Data:  The bytes of the datagram to be delivered.

5.  Behavior and Usage

   When an application sends an unreliable datagram over a QUIC
   connection, QUIC will generate a new DATAGRAM frame and send it in
   the first available packet.  This frame SHOULD be sent as soon as
   possible, and MAY be coalesced with other frames.

   When a QUIC endpoint receives a valid DATAGRAM frame, it SHOULD
   deliver the data to the application immediately, as long as it is
   able to process the frame and can store the contents in memory.

   DATAGRAM frames MUST be protected with either 0-RTT or 1-RTT keys.

   Application protocols using datagrams are responsible for defining
   the semantics of the Datagram Data field, and how it is parsed.  If
   the application protocol supports the coexistence of multiple

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   entities using datagrams inside a single QUIC connection, it may need
   a mechanism to allow demultiplexing between them.  For example, using
   datagrams with HTTP/3 involves prepending a flow identifier to all
   datagrams, see [I-D.schinazi-quic-h3-datagram].

   Note that while the max_datagram_frame_size transport parameter
   places a limit on the maximum size of DATAGRAM frames, that limit can
   be further reduced by the max_packet_size transport parameter, and by
   the Maximum Transmission Unit (MTU) of the path between endpoints.
   DATAGRAM frames cannot be fragmented, therefore application protocols
   need to handle cases where the maximum datagram size is limited by
   other factors.

5.1.  Acknowledgement Handling

   Although DATAGRAM frames are not retransmitted upon loss detection,
   they are ack-eliciting ([I-D.ietf-quic-recovery]).  Receivers SHOULD
   support delaying ACK frames (within the limits specified by
   max_ack_delay) in reponse to receiving packets that only contain
   DATAGRAM frames, since the timing of these acknowledgements is not
   used for loss recovery.

   If a sender detects that a packet containing a specific DATAGRAM
   frame might have been lost, the implementation MAY notify the
   application that it believes the datagram was lost.  Similarly, if a
   packet containing a DATAGRAM frame is acknowledged, the
   implementation MAY notify the application that the datagram was
   successfully transmitted and received.  Note that, due to reordering,
   a DATAGRAM frame that was thought to be lost could at a later point
   be received and acknowledged.

5.2.  Flow Control

   DATAGRAM frames do not provide any explicit flow control signaling,
   and do not contribute to any per-flow or connection-wide data limit.

   The risk associated with not providing flow control for DATAGRAM
   frames is that a receiver may not be able to commit the necessary
   resources to process the frames.  For example, it may not be able to
   store the frame contents in memory.  However, since DATAGRAM frames
   are inherently unreliable, they MAY be dropped by the receiver if the
   receiver cannot process them.

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5.3.  Congestion Control

   DATAGRAM frames employ the QUIC connection's congestion controller.
   As a result, a connection may be unable to send a DATAGRAM frame
   generated by the application until the congestion controller allows
   it [I-D.ietf-quic-recovery].  The sender implementation MUST
   either delay sending the frame until the controller allows it or drop
   the frame without sending it (at which point it MAY notify the

   Implementations can optionally support allowing the application to
   specify a sending expiration time, beyond which a congestion-
   controlled DATAGRAM frame ought to be dropped without transmission.

6.  Security Considerations

   The DATAGRAM frame shares the same security properties as the rest of
   the data transmitted within a QUIC connection.  All application data
   transmitted with the DATAGRAM frame, like the STREAM frame, MUST be
   protected either by 0-RTT or 1-RTT keys.

7.  IANA Considerations

   This document registers a new value in the QUIC Transport Parameter

   Value:  0x0020 (if this document is approved)

   Parameter Name:  max_datagram_frame_size

   Specification:  Indicates that the connection should enable support
      for unreliable DATAGRAM frames.  An endpoint that advertises this
      transport parameter can receive datagrams frames from the other
      endpoint, up to and including the length in bytes provided in the
      transport parameter.

   This document also registers a new value in the QUIC Frame Type

   Value:  0x30 and 0x31 (if this document is approved)

   Frame Name:  DATAGRAM

   Specification:  Unreliable application data

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8.  Acknowledgments

   Thanks to Ian Swett, who inspired this proposal.

9.  References

9.1.  Normative References

              Iyengar, J. and M. Thomson, "QUIC: A UDP-Based Multiplexed
              and Secure Transport", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft,
              draft-ietf-quic-transport-27, 21 February 2020,

              Iyengar, J. and I. Swett, "QUIC Loss Detection and
              Congestion Control", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft,
              draft-ietf-quic-recovery-26, 21 February 2020,

9.2.  Informative References

   [RFC0768]  Postel, J., "User Datagram Protocol", STD 6, RFC 768,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC0768, August 1980,

   [RFC6347]  Rescorla, E. and N. Modadugu, "Datagram Transport Layer
              Security Version 1.2", RFC 6347, DOI 10.17487/RFC6347,
              January 2012, <>.

   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997,

   [RFC8174]  Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC
              2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174,
              May 2017, <>.

              Schinazi, D., "Using QUIC Datagrams with HTTP/3", Work in
              Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-schinazi-quic-h3-datagram-
              02, 4 November 2019, <

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Authors' Addresses

   Tommy Pauly
   Apple Inc.
   One Apple Park Way
   Cupertino, California 95014,
   United States of America


   Eric Kinnear
   Apple Inc.
   One Apple Park Way
   Cupertino, California 95014,
   United States of America


   David Schinazi
   Google LLC
   1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
   Mountain View, California 94043,
   United States of America


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